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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London

After the excitement and drama of the weekend, here was the comedown. Manchester City against Manchester United was a tense, gritty battle of attrition. Tottenham against Chelsea was an explosive clash, packed with action. This was like watching a game of chicken between a sports car and a squeaky shopping trolley filled with tin cans. For the first few moments you wondered if there might be a shock, given that the sports car had broken down so often this season, but then there was the roar of an engine, a very loud bang and now there‘s cans all over the place. On reflection, perhaps this wasn’t a very fair fight.

West Ham were abysmal, a disgrace to the fans who had travelled the length of the country to watch them. They looked bereft of ideas, their heads hung so low that they risked tripping over their own ears. Never mind the stomach for a fight, this team didn’t even have the stomach for an argument about the washing-up. It’s hard to know where to start, but let’s try anyway. If Rob Green is England’s number one then his country is doomed, especially if Matthew Upson is playing in front of him. Green is a fine shot-stopper, but his positional awareness is woeful and he is dreadful in the air. One attempt to claim a cross in the first half was so disastrous that he refused to leave his line for the rest of the game, a policy that led to Liverpool‘s freakish third goal. Upson is often referred to as ‘the poor man’s John Terry’, but that shouldn’t mean that when Terry plays badly, he is obliged to play even worse. As one of the senior players he is supposed to lead the back-line. In form like this, it’s amazing he was able to lead them back to the dressing room at half-time without getting lost.

The whole team played with such a total lack of commitment and fight that you suspect many of them have already shaken hands on lucrative transfers to more stable environments. I pity Gianfranco Zola. It’s horrible to see a rookie manager have his career dashed against the rocks of a club as insanely mis-managed as West Ham. In five years in the top flight, the ever-shifting cast of characters in the Upton Park boardroom have wasted a fortune in the transfer market, they have undermined and constructively dismissed an experienced manager who gave them solidity and they have betrayed the tens of thousands of supporters with their incompetence. The only thing that can save them now is Hull City somehow contriving to be even worse.


They were perfectly adequate, but that wasn’t hard. Without the injured Fernando Torres, David Ngog was called into action and he played exceptionally well. He’ll never be in the Spaniard’s class, but he does have his qualities. His movement off the ball is intelligent, he puts himself in good positions and his finish for Liverpool’s second goal was well-taken. Behind him, Steven Gerrard gave another improved performance in the centre of midfield and Yossi Benayoun, restored to the left-wing, shone against his old club. Mind you, I suspect that Liverpool could have fielded Martin Peters on Monday night and he’d have shone against his old club too….


This was Liverpool’s smallest crowd in five years, but it’s hardly surprising. Barring a cataclysmic loss of form from Tottenham and Manchester City, Liverpool’s hopes of finishing fourth have all but vanished. Throw in the recession, the Volcano flight ban blocking the legions of Irish and Scandinavian supporters, and the fact that the game was televised, and it’s easy to see why there were so many empty seats at Anfield.